Lots of us are deciding on goals to improve our health and well being as we head into 2020, but how long does it really take for your New Year’s goal to become just another daily habit?
Each time we take an action it becomes easier for us to repeat it, up until the point where a habit is ingrained—a state called automaticity. Research suggests that, for most people, making a goal into an automatic part of your life takes an average of 66 days.
Depending on your goal, making a lasting change can take more or less time. Habits like drinking an extra glass of water become automatic in just a few weeks while more complex tasks, like going for a 15-minute walk each morning can take over 200 days to become automatic.
As the old saying goes, we are what we repeatedly do. Here are some tips for making small changes that add up to a better life.
- Set specific, achievable goals. Getting in shape or being more mindful are great aspirations, but to get there, we need to focus on the details. Setting a specific target—like going to the gym before work or meditating for 10 minutes after dinner—allows us to change our lives by focusing on the finer details. Read more about the art of goal setting.
- Build in accountability. Talk to your friends and family about your goal; let them know when you’re succeeding and when you’re falling short.
- Join a community. Being around individuals with similar aspirations to your own can also be a great motivator. Just seeing familiar faces at the YMCA or signing up for a training regimen at the Pottstown Athletic Club can make it easier than going alone.
In an interesting twist, researchers found that missing your goal for a day did not negatively impact habit formation. The upshot is that you can fail occasionally without too much guilt—as long as you pick up where you left off.